Do you only or mostly eat organic food? Have you thought about going organic, but are not sure yet? Or do you think organic is a hype and / or too expensive?
Let us look at some of the myths surrounding organic food and agriculture, so you can make up your own mind.
What does organic mean?
Organic food is food as nature intended: Natural, free from artificial chemicals and grown with biodiversity and soil health in mind.
In simple words, organic food is grown without synthetic chemicals and fertilisers, does not contain any genetically modified ingredients (GMOs), is free from hormones, antibiotics etc. Organic food is grown in tune with nature, aims to rehabilitate and replenish the soils rather than depleting nutrients.
Is all organic produce certified organic?
No, it’s not. In order to be certified organic, the producer must go through an intense 3-year long certification process with ACO (Australian Certified Organic). This is an internationally recognised standard and the producers get audited once a year to ensure they fulfil all requirements on an ongoing basis.
That doesn’t mean though that small-scale farmers who don’t have the certification should be avoided, but rather the opposite. The organic certification takes time and costs money. Not every farmer can afford this investment, or they might not be 100% ready yet to fulfill all requirements as they might have just started up. I believe that we should support organic in all forms as long as you can find out that the producer is doing the right thing. If you are going to farmer’s markets, then you have the best opportunity to start a conversation and find out more about their practices.
If you are buying your goods mostly in supermarkets though, then the ACO certification is what you should be looking for.
Why should I buy organic?
The two major areas to look at are our planet and your own health. Organic is better for our planet because it is grown without artificial chemicals, fertilizers etc. and tries to re-store our soils, rather than destroy them as conventional agriculture often does. Organic farms have a lot more biodiversity and work more in tune with nature.
Organic food tends to have more nutrients than non-organic produce and as such is supposed to be better for your health. This is very hard to prove though. “Organic milk has higher levels of healthy omega fatty acids and organic crops have higher antioxidant activity than conventional crops. But are these differences substantial enough to meaningfully impact health? We don’t know. Nobody does.”* People who eat mostly organic have less exposure to pesticides and a recent French study showed that “those who frequently ate organic developed 25 percent fewer cancers than those who never ate organic.”* Still it is hard to prove as other factors like the lifestyle or weight might have contributed to this, too.
I personally feel a lot better eating a fresh organic un-waxed apple from the farmer’s market vs. a supermarket-bought waxed one. The taste is soooo different, the organic apple will always win over the non-organic one for me. And if there’s health benefits coming with it, then why not?
Why does organic fruit not look perfect?
Because no chemical fertilizers and pesticides are being used. They look natural as nature intended. They might have some dark spots, different shapes or may be smaller, but hey, they taste good. 😊
I want to eat organic, but I can’t afford it
Why not start slow and replace one item at a time. If you like oats for breakfast, why not head to a local bulk food store with your own bag or jar and fill up however much or little you need and give it a go. Oats are usually one of the cheapest products and they last you a long time. Then you can try different nuts and seeds. If you buy small amounts, you can make sure that you only buy what you need, don’t waste any food and can experiment with what you like best.
When it comes to fruit and veg, there are certain types you should always buy organic over conventional because of their pesticide content. The Dirty Dozen and The Clean Fifteen are derived from an analysis of the US government’s Pesticide Data Program report.**
So what are the dirty dozen? Strawberries have been the number 1 on the list for years now, followed by spinach, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, potatoes and sweet bell peppers (this would be capsicum in Oz). The recommendation is to buy these organic whenever you can.
The clean 15 are usually fine to be bought non-organic (but think of our planet – do you really want to support monoculture and soil exploitation?) and consist of avocado, corn, pineapple, cabbage, onions, sweet peas, papayas, asparagus, mangoes, honeydew melon, eggplant, kiwifruit, cantaloupe melons, cauliflower and broccoli.
But I have been told that organic farming needs more land for the same yield.
That is true, organic agriculture requires more land than conventional agriculture. A study compares “organic and conventional agriculture across the four main metrics of sustainability identified by the US National Academy of Sciences: be productive, economically profitable, environmentally sound and socially just.”*** Only 1 % of global farmland is used for organic farming at the moment, there is still so much opportunity and research that can be done. Also, if the population lowered their meat consumption (especially beef), more land could be used to grow plants to feed our ever-growing population.
So, why organic?
Do it for our planet and your own health. Monoculture as often used in conventional farming destroys our planet. I am a firm believer in supporting alternative methods, local and small producers who are trying to do the right thing. So whatever you can do and afford, give organic produce a go, even if you start small. Our planet and your own health will thank you for it. 😊